As I was driving past the Pinnaroo Primary School recently I spotted a lovely mural painted on the wall of a classroom. The mural illustrates various aspects of the local farming activities and the environment. I’ve shown it in the photo above – click on it to enlarge.
From a birding viewpoint I was pleased to see the Malleefowl shown prominently as a part of the painting. Pinnaroo is in the heart of mallee country in South Australia.
The Malleefowl is an amazing bird unique to this part of the world and is classified as a vulnerable species in Australia. It is about 55-61cm in size (like a smallish turkey) and quietly feeds on seeds and berries in the mallee scrub, or on wheat seeds in farming areas.
The male Malleefowl builds a rather odd nest. It is a mound of dirt, leaves, sticks and bark and can be from 2 to 5 metres in diameter and up to 1.5 metres high. He will work this mound like a compost heap over the summer months, the rotting vegetation and sunlight heating up the mound. Over many months the female lays about 5 to 30 eggs in tunnels in the mound which are then covered over. The heat inside the mound is kept at almost exactly 33C throughout the incubation period which can last many months. On hatching, the young struggle through the dirt of the mound before running off through the scrub, independent from the beginning.
This species can be found nesting within 20km of my home, yet I’ve only ever seen one in the wild on a handful of occasions. One memorable occasion occurred a few years ago when I saw 6 birds in a period of 10 minutes. You can read about that encounter in an article called What kind of a duck was that? (Click here)
Below I have also included photos of two Malleefowl nests I have found in different parts of South Australia.